Thursday, July 24, 2014

Week 30: Basics

Sometimes, we just have to go back to basics.  

That’s kind of where I am this week after a long string of not so awesome food choices and an injury that is starting to be more trouble than I thought it would be.  I sprained my ankle the day before my last 5K run.  As one would imagine, I ended up running that 5K fairly slowly because the ankle was still tender and running all out on it really wasn’t an option.  Here I am nearly a week and a half later and I’m still not able to run more than 10 minutes or so before the twinges of pain start to warn me that things will get a lot worse if I don’t stop.  I’m going to do some research and try wrapping my ankle in sports tape, but I suspect that while it might help me run a little longer, I’m still going to have to take it easy.  As frustrating as it is, I’m going to have to go back to basic walking for a while and give that ankle time to heal.  

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Week 29: Shame

One of the things I’ve had to do on this fitness journey is learn how to make healthier foods.  I know that theoretically it should be easy, but it was difficult for me.  I wasn’t sure how to swap out higher fat foods for lower fat choices and still end up with something edible.  I had a couple of friends that really helped along the way, and one of them turned me on to the Chocolate Covered Katie Blog.  Because, lets face it, everyone wants to have dessert, and Katie has some really tasty recipes that are vegan and virtually guilt free.  Her blog posts are fun, punctuated with colorful pictures of her food, and her recipes are easy.

What I did not realize was that Katie was the victim of some rather vicious rumors regarding her weight and body image.  This week she posted an entry titled “Chocolate Covered Katie Anorexic?” on her blog, and regardless of the fact that she and I are on complete opposite sides of the weight spectrum, I found myself tearfully empathizing.  It is truly sad the way people judge others, especially when they don’t even really know the people they are judging!  But it happens, all the time, and even more so now that we’re an electronic social media society.  It’s so easy to leave a snarky comment on someone’s photo or blog, and often we do it without even really thinking about what we’re saying.  I don’t think people really understand the power of their words, whether good or bad.  I don’t think they realize how much words can hurt.

I grew up dealing with snickers, teasing, and outright name-calling because I was overweight.  I had to endure well-meaning relatives making hurtful comments because they felt it might be helpful if I was shamed into doing something about my weight.  I was told over and over that I couldn’t wear certain clothes because I was the wrong size, shape, or height.  I was told by a close relative that I was pretty, but I’d never really be beautiful.  (Yes, that really happened).  I spent most of my childhood and young adulthood feeling nothing but shame every time I looked into a mirror because society in general had me believing there was something wrong with me because I couldn’t lose enough weight to look like the models in the most recent issue of Teen magazine.  I’m not alone in that experience, and it’s not just overweight people that have to deal with it, either.  Thin women deal with the same kind of cruelty.  People tell them to eat a sandwich, or ask if they are suffering from some sort of eating disorder, or told that they need to eat more because they are too thin.

Body-shaming happens along the entire weight spectrum, and it frustrates the hell out of me.  I don’t understand why there even has to be a societal norm when it comes to someone’s weight or size.  Why can’t we just simply be and accept each other for who we are?   Why can’t we celebrate the diversity in our lives, rather than trying to hammer everyone into the same mold?  I for one am fed up.  I’ve made a conscious decision to no longer buy into the bullcrap and to speak up when I see body shaming happening.  Everyone is beautiful in their own unique way, and no one will ever convince me otherwise.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Week 28: Failure and Fear

I’m afraid of failure.  I don’t think that I’m alone in this, but after failing to reach my 40 minute 5K goal last week,  I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about failure and how I let it affect me.

I don’t remember having a lot of failures as a child.  I was a good student and I happily worked my ass off in school to get decent grades and do my parents proud.  I took piano lessons from the time I was six years old right through high school and played two pieces in a piano concert every one of those years and as far as I can remember, I never once messed up enough to think I’d failed to give a good performance.  I was in several school plays and musicals and never had difficulty remember lines and songs. I gave speeches in class and barely batted an eye. Most of it just seemed easy to me. If I wanted to do something, I just did it.

And then my freshman year in college that one Sunday morning happened. My grandmother’s church invited me to play the offertory on a Sunday morning and I accepted.  I played Beethoven’s Fur Elise, and I was fabulous during the first half and then for some reason I cannot explain, I lost my fingering and was like so many deer in the headlights.  I could not recover.  I had to stop for nearly a full thirty seconds and just breathe before I could even start again and do the piece any sort of justice.  I felt terrible for the rest of the day.  I felt like I’d let my grandmother down, and I was so embarrassed that I could barely make eye contact with anyone there.

Looking back on that now, I still feel shame, because I can see that I allowed my memories of that moment and the resulting fear of failure to all but kill my dreams of being a serious musician.   I couldn't perform in public after that.  People would ask and I would say “no” without even giving it a thought because I never wanted to feel that terrible again.  In fact, I all but gave it up.  I rarely sat down to play, not even for my own pleasure, and I would firmly and quickly change the subject if anyone ever asked me why.  Just the mere thought of performing in front of an audience crippled me with fear.

That fear bled over into other aspects of my life.  I found myself getting really anxious while handling work-related projects because I didn't want the embarrassment of failing in those situations.  I would give up on my dreams before I even started because I feared I wouldn't have the skills to do what needed to be done to bring those dreams to life.  In short, I lived a very safe--and unfulfilling--life for several years.  I was just too scared to take risks in any aspect of my life.

Thankfully, I did eventually get over it.  I have good friends and family who helped me see that failures are stepping stones towards fulfilling my dreams rather than the end of them.  I've learned that I have to pick myself up and try again every single time, because with enough hard work I’ll make it there, even if I fail several times on the way.  And that is why I signed myself up for another 5K this coming Sunday.  I’m going to go for that 40 minutes again.  I’m confident that I can do it, but if I don’t, I will try again.  And I will keep trying until I reach that goal.

And then I will set another goal and work towards it.  I won’t stop running and I will keep raising the bar.  I am going to run a marathon someday.

And just in case anyone is wondering, I did get over my fear of public performances.  I am not playing the piano much these days, but I joined a choir that is full of wonderful, loving people led by a remarkable director.  With their help, I have overcome my fear, and music is a major part of my life again.  I’m so very grateful for that.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Week 27: Fourth of July 5K

I went into yesterday’s 5k wanting to finish it in 40 minutes or less.  It wasn’t an unreasonable goal. I’ve been averaging 12 minute, 30 second miles in my training of late, so I was feeling fairly certain I could finish it in 40 minutes.  I went to bed Thursday night feeling pretty excited about what the next day would bring.

Things did not go as planned.

I woke to a killer sinus headache the morning of the race, the kind that makes you nauseous and want to stay in bed.  I forced myself out of bed and took both ibuprofen and sudafed with my breakfast.  I drank as much water as I could stand.  By the time I made it to the starting area an hour later I was just beginning to feel better.  The headache was down to a dull roar and I was able, for the most part, to ignore it.  I paced up and down the street to warm my muscles up and loosen my joints.  By the time the 5K actually started I was feeling pretty good.

This course, thankfully, was nowhere near as hilly as the last course I ran.  The hills were there, but none of them were particularly steep.  I found myself walking for 30 second intervals here and there, but I was still doing pretty good, and when I checked my time at the one mile marker I was on track.  

I had just spotted the two mile marker when the muscles in my left calf started to spasm.  I was shocked.  Believe it or not, I’d never had that happen to me in all the time I’ve been training for these races.  The pain was excruciating and I had to slow down considerably until the cramp in my calf eased up a bit.  By the time I was running at a decent pace again, I was turning the last corner.

I could see the finish line in the distance, and I started to up my pace a bit.  When I was close enough to read the time on the clock, my heart seemed to skip a beat and then sink into my stomach.  The time read 40:23.  I used the last of my reserves to get myself across the finish line with a time of 42:01--1 minute and 31 seconds faster than my last race, but 2 minutes, one second slower than I’d wanted.  The disappointment I felt in that moment was so heavy I felt like I couldn’t breathe.  I hadn’t realized how much time I’d lost at the beginning of that 3rd mile.

The first sob came as a volunteer handed me a bottle of water.  I managed to take a few sips before the second sob escaped me.  By then my husband had found me, and after seeing my expression, he wrapped his arms around me and held on tight.  I hid my face against his shoulder and cried.  Looking back at that moment now, I can’t quite put a finger on why I was so upset.  It wasn’t like I didn’t beat my last time.  But I had my heart set on finishing in 40 minutes, and that little failure hurt more than I imagined it would.

Eventually my husband and I made our way to breakfast at our favorite cafe, and after devouring a blueberry bran muffin I found that I was able to think about the race more objectively.  So I didn’t finish the race in 40 minutes.  But I did finish, and I was faster than the last race.  I had to admit to myself that even though I didn’t finish in 40 minutes, I had still made significant progress.  I felt a little better about the whole thing after coming to that conclusion.  

And there’s always next time.